Ellen's Cafe embodies the warm Texas-small-town spirit of Old Town Spring with its cheerful staff and menu of made-from-scratch classics. Owner Ellen Saxe can often be spotted bustling about the restaurant, greeting customers and guiding them toward tables in the bright-yellow dining room or out on the sunny front porch. In the kitchen, her husband and head chef, Alan Saxe, captains a kitchen crew as they whip eggs into five types of quiche and assemble freshly baked breads into hearty sandwiches that have been lauded by the Humble Observer. Meanwhile, pots of the soup of the day bubble on stovetops as housemade pies and cobblers rise in ovens. The husband-and-wife duo peddles their own fudge and old-fashioned ice cream, crafting all their products themselves rather than commissioning teams of tree-dwelling elves to mass-produce them.
It started with a single sound—the sizzle of eggs as they hit the bacon-greased iron skillet. And with that, an 8-year-old Chef Ambrose stepped into the culinary arts, going from a kid helping his dad with barbecue to a chef with two gold medals from Culinary Institute LeNôtre. At Just Burgers, Chef Ambrose lends his culinary expertise to hamburgers he sculpts fresh daily, grilling and sandwiching each Black Angus-beauty on a choice of a ciabatta, wheat, or the popular pretzel bun, which often sells out nightly. He also dresses each one in fresh toppings, along with occasional organic goodies gleaned from visits to the farmers' market. Running a BYOB establishment, Just Burgers' team members charge no fees for uncorking wine bottles or prying off beer caps with their teeth.
A third-generation Italian family takes the helm at Nicole’s Italian Restaurant, topping the 12 dining tables with homemade lasagna, shrimp tossed with linguini, savory cuts of chicken and veal, and bubbling pizzas. Chefs call on generations-old South Italian recipes as they create dishes forged with low-fat milk and cheeses and free of MSG and preservatives, creating a health-conscious dining experience at the restaurant or at a catered party. On certain nights of the week, Nicole’s Italian Restaurant treats its patrons to entertainment that includes karaoke, live music, and spaghetti-knitting demonstrations.
At Red Dot Cuisine, crabmeat cocktails garnished with mango caviar arrive at tables with an unexpected twist: the cocktail glass serves as the top of a mini fish bowl, with an actual goldfish inside doing laps. It's just one of the creative touches that make Red Dot's upscale bistro into a dining experience. The bar, lunch, and dinner menus combine Indian and American cuisine elements, yielding dishes such as the tandoori turkey panini with cranberry-flavored mayo. Specialty cocktails such as lychee martinis and tamarind mojitos complement meals, and an eclectic roster of desserts includes raspberry chocolate cake and fried Oreos with Shiner Bock ice cream.
Gatti's Pizza paints its signature crust of twice-risen dough with sauce made from a 40-year-old recipe passed down by the founder, Colonel Eure, who started the pie hub's first location in 1969. Real cheeses combine into a unique, smoky blend, forming a flavorful foundation dotted with toppings such as spicy italian sausage, pineapple, pepperoni, and shredded napkins. The menu trots out 10 specialty pies—including the bacon double cheeseburger, the Gatti's Deluxe, and the Superoni, which offers extra helpings of smoked provolone and pepperoni—as well as desserts in the form of cinnamon sticks and dutch apple treat pizzas.
Anothai Cuisine's chefs grind their own fresh herbs and spices to awaken patrons' tongues with each bite of their Thai dishes. Pungent curry coats seafood, chicken, and noodles, and on the other end of savory-to-sweet spectrum, mango imbues shrimp with flavor that evokes the tropical drinks of which ice fishermen's dreams are made. Artfully arranged garnishes complement colorful dishes to excite the eyes, which can scan the bright red and white accents between bites.